The Cheapest and Tastiest Garlic: Fresh or Ready-Made?

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Hate breaking, peeling, and chopping fresh garlic? It's easier – and cheaper – than you may think.

If your New Year’s resolutions include losing weight or eating healthier, you’ll probably be cooking more in 2012.

Not only is a home-cooked meal usually cheaper than eating out, it’s often healthier. But unless you have the time to cook every night, maintaining your healthy diet will require cutting corners where you can.

For example: Is fresh garlic – which requires smashing, peeling, and chopping – really necessary? Would the ready-made jarred kind or the powdered form ever do?

Fortunately, Consumer Reports is one step ahead of us. In order to answer such questions, they recently taste-tested eight types of garlic. “We wanted to know if home cooks were sacrificing flavor by using dried, frozen or other types of garlic,” they said of the article in the December issue. “The goal: to see whether convenience comes at the price of flavor.”

The best taste

After tasting the eight types of garlic straight, in a cold dip, and in mashed potatoes, Consumer Reports dubbed fresh garlic the winner in all three uses. But freeze-dried garlic, minced jarred, and powdered garlic proved acceptable too…

If you use a substitute for fresh garlic, though, be sure to read the ingredient list first. Consumer Reports noted that added ingredients like salt or oil could affect how a substitute tastes in a particular use.

The best price

“In addition to the trade-off you’ll make in flavor, some of the substitutes actually cost more than fresh garlic,” according to the magazine. “So it may pay to learn a few secrets from the chefs on how to deftly chop garlic.”

Start with these quick and easy lessons from Saveur magazine:

To make fresh garlic last as long as possible, be sure to store it properly –uncovered or loosely covered in a cool, dry place. Throw it out when it sprouts, softens, or shrivels.

If you really want to save money – or just go through a ton of garlic – consider growing your own. According to Good Housekeeping magazine’s TheDailyGreen.com, “no vegetable is so easy to grow and harvest.” For a thorough step-by-step guide, check out:

Karla Bowsher runs our Deals page, writes “Today’s Deals” posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and covers consumer and retail issues. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, leave a comment or contact her at [email protected].

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